By Chris Natoli
Any active rank-and-file member of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) knows that our union is about as top-down and undemocratic as the Democratic Party. Although the PSC constitution seems to provide a reasonably democratic framework for the distribution of power and flow of decision-making, a sober examination of how the union is actually governed reveals that the structure delineated in the constitution is not tight enough to prevent the concentration of power in a clique like the New Caucus. Such an examination also suggests some crucial structural changes to further democratize our union. Continue reading “What Would a Democratic PSC Look Like?”
by Glenn Kissack
Glenn Kissack is a retiree representative on the PSC Executive Council. He posted this statement on the PSC Delegate Assembly listserv explaining why he couldn’t support the resolution to endorse Bill de Blasio for re-election.
An endorsement of Bill de Blasio for re-election would be inconsistent with the progressive principles of the PSC.
We Should Receive Support In Return For Our Endorsement
We should only endorse candidates who pledge to support our most important demands. For instance, we support the CUNY Student Bill of Rights, which among other things calls for adjuncts to “have secure positions and pay parity with their full-time colleagues.” Political candidates should be asked: “Which of these goals can you publicly support and advocate for?” Their answers should determine our endorsements.
Does de Blasio support the CUNY Student Bill of Rights or our demands for full funding of CUNY? There’s no evidence he does. And what was his reaction to Cuomo’s proposal to cut state funding to CUNY by 4.1% — the worse CUNY budget in many years – and to raise tuition by $1250 over five years? In his City Hall budget presentation on January 24, de Blasio praised Cuomo’s “tuition plan” (which will not benefit any student with a course load under 15 credits a semester) and said nothing about the 4.1% proposed cut. Continue reading “Why We Should Not Endorse Bill de Blasio for Mayor”
On January 26th, organizers with CUNY Struggle attended a meeting of the PSC’s Delegate Assembly (DA) to speak out about the union’s pending endorsement of Bill de Blasio for mayor. Despite his left-talking posturing against Donald Trump, de Blasio has been a sweetheart of cutthroat developers like Bruce Ratner, who are aggressively making working class life impossible in New York City, and law and order police advocates like Bill Bratton, a pioneer of the “Broken Windows” policing tactic who this “liberal” mayor brought back from the Giuliani Administration to lead the NYPD. Broken Windows has terrorized hundreds of thousands of working class New Yorkers, including many students in the CUNY system, and predominantly people of color in neighborhoods facing gentrification thanks to de Blasio’s developer pals.
Like de Blasio, the PSC’s ruling clique, the New Caucus, has a long history of loudly adopting rhetorically righteous progressive positions on issues like the Iraq war, the Flint water crisis, and now anti-Trumpism, while quietly supporting regressive policies like a widening pay gap within its ranks, and promoting an internal union culture that spurns democratic participation in favor of secretive top-down leadership. The PSC’s reputation as a “progressive” union derives from the fact that the further an issue gets from the bottom line of the New Caucus’s cynical realpolitik, the more left-wing their rhetoric becomes. Continue reading “The de Blasio Dead End”
As we begin a year that will find the PSC back at the bargaining table with CUNY management, CUNY Struggle has prepared a comparison of the most recently won PSC-CUNY and LIU-Brooklyn faculty contracts. Both bargaining units work at campuses in New York City, and are affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Looking at the two labor agreements side-by-side brings to light the stark differences between what the PSC has achieved at CUNY and what was achieved at LIU. Continue reading “What a CUNY Contract Can Look Like”
Trump’s Supreme Court will crush public sector unions unless we mobilize now to fight and win big in the next contract.
In February 2016, Antonin Scalia’s death ended his 30 year tenure on the Supreme Court just as a ruling was expected on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The plaintiffs in the case had argued that “agency shop” laws, which require public sector employees to pay dues as a condition of employment rather than on a voluntary basis, were unconstitutional. Had Scalia lived, the court would have decided in favor of Friedrichs, and “right-to-work” — the prohibition of agency shops — would have become the law of the land. But with Scalia gone, the court split 4-4 and denied a petition for rehearing. His passing was heralded as an intercession from above by folks in labor movement. While we all cheered the near-miss and vowed to prepare for the next round, some remarked somberly that unions had done precious little to prepare for a ruling that seemed like a sure thing until Scalia’s unexpected demise. Pinning the survival of labor unions on the timely death of their opponents is not a great long term strategy.
After a brief flurry of perhaps misplaced glee, labor resumed its dormancy. The expectation was that Scalia would be replaced by a moderate picked by Obama or his likely successor, Hillary Clinton, and the court would lean liberal for the next few decades. But these idle dreams came crashing down when Trump ascended to the presidency having campaigned on a promise to tap a justice “in the mold” of Scalia. We can now expect that another lawsuit seeking to destroy agency shops — Friedrichs 2.0 — is waiting in the wings, and that the new Supreme Court will likely enshrine a version of right-to-work within 18 months of the inauguration. [Updated: this is exactly what is happening.] Rather than passively bracing for the inevitability of right-to-work, as the PSC and most other unions did during the deliberation of the Friedrichs case, we need to get organizing. It is now or never for public sector unions.
Continue reading “It’s Now or Never for the PSC”
Earlier this week, amidst mounting pressure from localized rank-and-file initiatives at over a dozen CUNY campuses demanding the university become a “sanctuary campus”, Chancellor James B. Milliken released a statement outlining CUNY’s commitment to protecting its undocumented students — or, more accurately, CUNY’s lack of any such commitment.
Every substantive commitment Milliken makes to protecting undocumented students is followed by a qualifier which renders it moot: “CUNY will take no action to assist in the enforcement of the immigration laws except as required by law”, “CUNY will not turn over student information to immigration enforcement authorities except pursuant to court order”, “CUNY will not permit immigration enforcement officials to enter its campuses except to the extent required by a warrant or court order” (our italics). This prevarication is consistent with the conspicuous absence of the term “sanctuary” from Milliken’s statement. It’s impressive how Milliken is able to use so many words to say so little, but then again, this is the hallmark of a successful administrator. Continue reading “Empty Words from Chancellor Milliken”